Archives For *Featured Reviews*

 

A Dream of Flight
 
A Feature Review of

We’ll Fly Away:
A Novel

Bryan Bliss

Hardback: Greenwillow Books, 2018
Buy Now:
Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]

 

Reviewed by Denise Frame Harlan

 

As a young teenager, I held my scars close to me. I woke in the night remembering the ragged bullet hole in the chest of the monogrammed shirt that I’d given to the German soldier hiding in an outbuilding. I felt the straw stiffness of hair bleached too white in an effort to disguise me when I accidentally shot someone in a gang fight. I learned “nothing gold can stay” from Ponyboy before I learned it from Robert Frost. I carried flowers for Algernon and helped the rats of NIMH make their break with Mrs. Frisby. I kythed with Meg and Ananda as Charles Wallace flew from when to when, between runs with Nancy Drew and the Hardy Boys and the Alfred Hitchcock mystery series for teens. I knew the world was dangerous.

Continue Reading…

 

To Argue Lovingly 

A Feature Review of 

A House United:
How the Church Can Save the World

Allen Hilton

Paperback: Fortress, 2018
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake

 

As the US has become increasingly divided, some Christians have rightly sought to show the rest of the world a unified group. Some have suggested, however, that that unity should include no public disagreements, that the world should see a church together in mind as well as heart. We’d have a better witness if we didn’t argue on Twitter, the thinking goes. Conversations concerning Paige Patterson and the Southern Baptist Convention have sometimes taken this tone, whether about letting those outside the SBC watch the chaos or even about how leadership problems could be handled.

Continue Reading…

 

Birds, Bricklayers, and Baseball
 
A Feature Review of

The Character of Virtue:
Letters to a Godson
Stanley Hauerwas

Hardback: Eerdmans, 2018.
Buy Now:
Amazon ] [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]
 
Reviewed by Sam Edgin

 

As the Boy’s head dipped down into the water I thought about joy. The Boy, my friend’s son, wide-eyed in the midst of sacrament, upside down in baptism, stared at the ceiling with that wild wonder all children have in new experiences. His head came up, rivulets running onto his small, strong shoulders. He did not cry. The sign of the cross was marked on his forehead, invisible and eternal. The sacrament, holy and piercing through time, was put in words. It was our turn. My wife and I, up before the expectant faces of the congregation, were asked if we would do our part, to support and encourage the the Boy in the life of faith. We said yes. It was why we were there, honored and nervous and brimming with love.

Continue Reading…

 

An Embodied and Communal Celebration
 
A Review of 

Remembrance, Communion, and Hope: Rediscovering the Gospel at the Lord’s Table
J. Todd Billings

Paperback: Eerdmans, 2017
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Andrew Stout

 

How does your congregation celebrate the Lord’s Supper? Does “celebrate” actually describe your experience of communion? Could you say that your experience of the Supper has significantly shaped your understanding of the gospel? These are some of the questions that J. Todd Billings provokes in his most recent book. In Remembrance, Communion, and Hope Billings argues that the Lord’s Supper is more than simply an addendum to the worship service. The Lord’s Supper is an “icon” of the gospel, “an icon that draws us into a divine drama by the power of the Spirit” (1). By inviting readers to a more robust experience of the Lord’s Supper, Billings is inviting us to a meal that places us in the center of Scripture’s redemptive drama and incorporates us into the life of the Trinity.

Continue Reading…

 

Let Us Hear from
One of Merton’s Students

 
A Review of
 

Merton’s Palace of Nowhere
(40th Anniversary Edition)
James Finley

Paperback: Ave Maria Press, 2018
Buy Now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle  ]

 
Reviewed by Win Bassett

 

Do we need another book about Thomas Merton—the man, monk, and writer who inspired many to enter monastic life, some to write spiritual memoirs, and hopefully more than both of those numbers combined to pray? Even before Merton’s death in December of 1968, an industry of texts about him had appeared. Following his perplexing electrocution by a floor fan in Thailand, the field of Merton studies only multiplied (and for good reasons). But after one reads Merton’s primary texts—including his seven-volume journal set—and the works of his closest associates, including Patrick Hart (Merton’s last secretary), there is not much more to explore about the man. I believe Merton himself would tell us to go to prayer rather than to pick up another book about the one time the author met him. I can read Henri Nouwen’s words until the cows come home, but his book about Merton, Encounters with Merton: Spiritual Reflection, takes this very premise.

Continue Reading…

 

Meeting Ourselves in the Mystics
 
A Feature Review of

Mystics and Misfits:
Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints

Christiana Peterson

Paperback: Herald Press, 2018.
Buy Now:  [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Tammy Perlmutter
 
 

“Maybe simplicity, as it turns out,
is both boringly simple and searingly difficult.”

-Christiana Peterson

 

The first time Christiana Peterson encountered a saint or “mystic” was while cleaning out her grandmother’s house after she had been settled into assisted living. She fell in love with a worn, wooden garden statue of St. Francis carved out of a log she had spotted through the patio door.

Paired with the coloring pages of saints her daughter was bringing home from Catholic school, Christiana met other mystics, “devout human beings who lived on the edges, who longed for unity with God.” Little did she know it would bring her into an experience that would have a profound impact on her life and faith.

Mystics and Misfits: Meeting God through St. Francis and Other Unlikely Saints is not your typical book about saints you can never hope to emulate or otherworldly mystics. Mystics and Misfits feels like an unexpected, personal gift, a friend sitting you down to tell their story with complete openness, trembling but present, offering you their world-weary soul.

Continue Reading…

 

Living, Loving, Dancing, Praying, and Contemplating
 
A Review of 
 

In Praise of the Useless Life: A Monk’s Memoir
Paul Quenon, O.C.S.O.

Paperback, Ave Maria Press, 2018.
Buy Now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Richard Goode

 

If one is looking for a guide to explain contemporary monasticism, Br. Paul Quenon offers the strongest of résumés. He is, for example, the embodiment of Trappist stability, having been a monk at Kentucky’s Abbey of Gethesemani for 60 years. As a novice he studied under none other than Thomas Merton. Br. Paul is also well published, receiving such accolades as “Best Spiritual Book of the Year” for his work. Beyond these facts, he is adept at painting a verbal picture. In the pages of this book, for example, we see the darkened Gethsemani church as the monastic choir prays Vigils at 3:15 am, an Office that the community has honored every day since its founding in 1848. Moreover, he portrays a modern Cistercian community respecting its centuries-old practice of “Ora et Labora” (prayer and work).

Continue Reading…

 

Standing up for Ourselves
 
A Feature Review of
 

Resist and Persist: Faith and the Fight for Equality
Erin Wathen

Paperback: WJK Books, 2018
Buy Now: [ Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by D. S. Leiter

 

I’m not sure Erin Wathen would expect or approve of my reaction when I finished reading her book, but here it is: I wanted to take my car on a roadtrip to her home state, find the church she pastors, and give her a big hug, then sit down and have a long conversation with her to find out more about her views on how the church should be working to be on the forefront of feminism.

Whether or not she would approve of my action, however, there it is. (Erin, if you’re reading this, please know that I would be doing so not as a creepy stalker, but because it frankly feels like you could use a hug, and because I’d like to dialogue with you more. I won’t actually do it.)

A variety of things in the book evoked this response in me.

Continue Reading…

 

Prioritizing Hospitality

 
A Review of 

The Gospel Comes with a House Key: Practicing Radically Ordinary Hospitality in Our Post-Christian World
Rosaria Butterfield

Hardcover: Crossway, 2018.
Buy Now:
Amazon ] [ Kindle ]  [ Audible ]

Reviewed by Justin Cober-Lake

 

Christian Hospitality:
A Reading List

 

Rosaria Butterfield doesn’t have the typical conservative Christian background, her conversion having come while researching the Religious Right as an antagonist. During that work (as she’s written on elsewhere), she became a Christian and her post-conversion life has become one of what she describes in her latest book The Gospel Comes with a House Key as “radically ordinary hospitality.” That phrase might sound heavy, but she breaks it down like this: “Radically ordinary hospitality is this: using your Christian home in a daily way that seeks to make strangers neighbors, and neighbors family of God” (31). Throughout the book, Butterfield explores an unusual way of living that manages to be both strange and familiar at the same time.

Continue Reading…

 

Wesleyan Theology
that Yearns for Justice

A Feature Review of

No Religion but Social Religion: Liberating Wesleyan Theology
Joerg Rieger

Paperback: GBHEM Publishing, 2018
Buy Now:
Amazon ] [ Kindle ]
 
Reviewed by Joseph Johnson

 

Liberation theology is often seen largely as a Roman Catholic movement born out of the socioeconomic struggles of the 1960’s and 1970’s in Latin America. There is, of course, much truth in this characterization, though liberation theology’s scope now extends well beyond Latin America when viewed in contemporary global perspective. In his introduction to The Cambridge Companion to Liberation Theology, Christopher Rowland echoes the words of pioneering Peruvian theologian Gustavo Gutiérrez when he points out that part of the significance of liberation theology for the wider Church has been its willingness to take on the challenge of “speaking of God in a world that is inhumane.” And in a world marked by so much suffering and injustice, this is clearly a necessary task.

Continue Reading…